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A new Super Robot Wars game was announced yesterday, Super Robot Wars UX for the Nintendo 3DS, and the amount of new and unexpected entries makes me want to talk about it, as well as some other SRW-related thoughts.
I think you can roughly categorize Super Robot Wars into two types of games: the flagship titles, and the experimental ones. The former consists of the titles with the best animation and the most-anticipated anime entries into the franchise. The latter can go in a number of directions, from aesthetics (3D models instead of 2D sprites in Super Robot Wars GC) to gameplay (a switch from turn-based to real-time strategy as with Super Robot Wars Scramble Commander), but often times “experimental” simply ends up referring to the titles chosen for that game.
That’s pretty much where UX is. Just look at the debut works for this version.
- Kishin Houkou Demonbane
- Fafner in the Azure: Heaven and Earth
- Wings of Rean
- Cyber Troopers Virtual On’s Fei-Yen HD
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A wakening of the Trailblazer
- SD Gundam Three Kingdoms Legend: Brave Battle Warriors
- Mazinkaiser SKL
When you include the other titles that are in this game, the first thing that jumps out is just how new most of the anime are. Not only is the Mazinger franchise represented by its latest one-off OVA series, but the actual oldest anime in the entire game (and the only two from the 1980s) are Aura Battler Dunbine, and then Ninja Senshi Tobikage of all things. If it were a flagship title, there would have to be certain staples, but with a “lesser” SRW like this, it’s possible to inject a ton of new blood into it and not offend anyone.
Not only that, but when you look at some of the recent titles chosen for UX, they seem to be among the least likely candidates even among non-flagship SRW games. Brave Battle Warriors is actually an already-super deformed Gundam anime done entirely in 3DCG and based on classical chinese literature, the sort of title one would least expect to represent Gundam even with the fact that SEED Destiny and 00 are there. Though I’m sure it’s based on the anime version, Demonbane‘s inclusion may be the first instance (and correct me if I’m wrong) of a visual novel appearing in SRW, which opens the gate for things like Muvluv Alternative.
Heroman I wasn’t even sure counted as a giant robot anime, though I guess if you think about it, it’s basically a combination of Tetsujin 28/Giant Robo with Gold Lightan (though Gold Lightan has yet to make its debut). Possibly craziest of all is the inclusion of Virtual On in the form of a Fei-Yen dressed like Hatsune Miku. Virtual On in SRW Alpha 3 paved the way for non-anime/manga to appear in Super Robot Wars games, and this takes it to another level, as I’m pretty sure Miku Fei-Yen is nothing more than a model kit!
It might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I actually love it when SRW games go a little wild like this, though one complaint I do have is that the DS SRW games have never been the most impressive when it comes to animation. My issue isn’t even with the quality of the sprites or an unfair comparison to the exquisitely animated Z series of SRW, but that a lot of the shortcuts taken to try to make the games look better actually end up making them look worse. In particular, I’m referring to the way the DS games including UX incorporate cut-ins, and detail shots. Instead of creating the images to better match the sprites and the visuals of the rest of the game, the DS SRWs basically take screenshots directly from the original anime, and while this means things look accurate, it also sticks out in an odd way and messes with the way the attack animations end up looking in a manner which didn’t quite affect previous games with worse sprite animation.
But it might just be that with a game with this daring of a series list, some things have to give. In that case, I’ll take it, but will still hope for better the next time around.
Gundam is one of the most well-known, influential, and highly regarded franchises in anime history. At this point over three decades old, many changes have occurred in Gundam, but none may be as interesting or so able to fulfill its potential as 1999’s Turn A Gundam. Created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Gundam and directed by the creator of Gundam himself, Tomino Yoshiyuki, it differs in many ways from other iterations, notably in its setting and aesthetics, but at the same time does wonders with everything it has. It shores up many traditional weaknesses of Gundam and Tomino’s work, and brings a variety of interesting twists to Gundam that don’t just come across as differences merely for the sake of them, resulting in just an all-around strong, engaging, and multifaceted story.
In stark contrast to every other Gundam series in current existence, Turn A Gundam takes place on an Earth with roughly World War I-level technology and social standards. In an age of biplanes and debutantes, the world is flipped upside down when lost descendants of humanity from the moon return to the planet with intentions to emigrate. Because the humans on Earth see this “Moonrace” as alien invaders taking away the land of their ancestors and the Moonrace sees the Earthlings as backwards barbarians prone to violence, tensions rise.
The only things keeping the scenario from boiling over and the Moonrace from wiping out the opposition with superior technology are the fact that the political scenario is not as simple as “Us vs. Them,” and the discovery of ancient and seemingly anachronistic “mechanical dolls” (what the people of the Moon call mobile suits) in the mountains, particularly the powerful and mysterious “White Doll.” Caught in the middle of this conflict is a Moonrace boy living on Earth named Loran Cehack, whose love for both his original and adopted homes pushes him to pilot the White Doll in an effort to prevent all-out war from breaking out.
There are certain phrases thrown about when reviewing anime, such as “character-based,” “theme-based,” “story-based,” and “world-based,” as if these categories are mutually exclusive or even contradictory, but Turn A Gundam is a series which strongly delivers on all these levels and more because of the way all of those components reciprocate with one another. The history of the world shapes the thoughts and backgrounds of the characters, who act within that world to create a grand story with many intricate elements, and it ultimately results in the delivery of certain themes, such as “the strengths and weaknesses of technological progress” and “awareness of history,” by taking a large-scale, global perspective and focusing it through smaller and more intimate character struggles.
This can be seen in the way the series portrays the constant clash of values and beliefs at various levels and between different people, consistently showing how many of the people involved are intelligent or enlightened or even kind-hearted in their own way, but are prone to mistakes due to the limits of their experiences. An archaeologist who cares little for religion and ceremony is so intent on digging for the sake of knowledge that he ends up exacerbating the conflict between the two sides by uncovering powerful military technology. Politician characters possess the negotiation skills and long-term thinking necessary to balance out their followers’ shortsighted and hotheaded reactions to the deaths of their comrades, but their high ambitions blind them to their own misdeeds. Qualities praised in soldiers, such as valor and daring, become problematic in the face of dangers well beyond their comprehension. As such, when these characters and many more sabotage themselves it comes across as perfectly understandable.
The cast of Turn A Gundam is absolutely gigantic, but it never comes across as too unwieldy for the show. Civilians and soldiers alike are given proper time and elaboration, and it really makes Turn A Gundam feel like a comprehensive world populated by real people. Loran is a gentle soul, but not one whose desire for peace prevents him from taking action, and over the course of the series is simultaneously built up and torn down by events both within and out of his control. Dianna Soreil, the leader of the Moonrace, is beloved by her people, but must deal with not only the difficulties of being opposed by Earth militias but also political infighting on her side. Her personal bodyguard, Harry Ord, is a loyal and admirable man, but one who over the course of the series shows how he is not blind to deception or his own feelings. Neither of Loran’s companions from the moon, Keith Leijie and Fran Doll, are soldiers or anything close to it, yet their stories about trying to start new lives on Earth are just as strong.
The Heim sisters, the adopted family of Loran (pictured in the middle below), or more accurately, the masters he works for as a servant, probably grow the most in the series. The tomboyish Sochie (left) must deal with her prejudice and anger against the Moonrace, while Kihel (right) and her uncanny resemblance to Dianna puts her in a situation central to the story, where she must push her already clever mind to its limits. Even extremely minor characters exude a sense of place in their world, and in some cases a lack of sense of place actually winds up becoming a strong defining trait in and of itself.
Also contributing to the strength of the show’s cast is the fact that the romance is actually extremely well done. Traditionally this has been a weakness of Tomino’s anime, particularly in the Gundam franchise because it is often ran through at an accelerated rate so that it can be a plot point or cause for tragedy, but Turn A Gundam manages to provide relationships which grow organically over time, particularly the two most prominent ones in the series. In these cases, the characters don’t so much have a moment where they Fall in Love, but rather as you watch them you see how they grow closer. Even the relationships which are a little more fast-paced are given reason in the series itself: in a situation like war, people start to think about their own mortality and regrets.
Possibly one of the reasons why the romance comes across so well is that many episodes are devoted primarily to showing people living out their lives amidst the backdrop of war, what might be deemed sillier episodes but which work to build the characters further. For Loran in particular, he is able to show how the White Doll, the titular “Turn A Gundam” as is revealed later, can function as more than just a weapon of destruction, and even the instances where he ends up having to crossdress (apparently an enduring legacy of Turn A if fanart is any indication) becomes both a plot point and a hint for later character development. War is shown as both the forefront and the background depending on the episode, and it creates a more robust setting as a result.
One topic that is difficult to avoid when discussing Turn A Gundam is the aesthetics of the show because of how the series visually sticks out among its fellow Gundam anime. Central to this is the fact that the Turn A itself is a far cry from the traditional Gundam design, and I remember that back when the series and its visuals was first announced there was a backlash against it. Designed by American Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron), the style of the Turn A, with its signature white mustache and strange angles, seemed to go against the image of Gundam that had been cultivated over the years. Even over a decade ago I jokingly photoshopped the Devil Gundam from G Gundam onto a Turn A Gundam head and called it “The Ugliest Gundam Ever.” But now, my opinion of the Turn A Gundam is that it not only looks good, but that it fits the role of a Gundam far-removed from those that have come before it. Over the course of the anime, the “White Doll” plays many roles and carries with it the question of to what degree can we break from the past, and this break in design says a lot in and of itself.
What’s even more impressive to me, however, is that each of the robot designs in Turn A are strikingly different from one another in a clear manner even, I would argue, when the person watching doesn’t have a particularly keen eye for mecha. The ostrich-like WaDOM looks nothing like the “muscular” Sumo, and even when it shares the same color scheme as the WaD their sheer difference in size makes it plainly obvious which is which. At the same time, the mobile suits of the Moonrace share a certain similar aesthetic quality which unites them thematically.
Compare this with the mobile suits of Zeon in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, where even though there is a clear direction for enemy design, it can potentially be difficult to tell a Gelgoog from a Zaku from a Dom, or from a later series like Gundam W or Gundam 00, where the “Gundam design rules” mean the differences are primarily in little details like weapon types or color schemes or what sits on their backs. With Turn A Gundam, even the retro Mobile Suits found over the course of the series by the people on Earth are so different from each other and everything around them that they gain individual identities all over again.
Like the mobile suits, the characters have a particularly strong pedigree somewhat outside of traditional mecha anime, as the character designer for Turn A Gundam is Yasuda “Akiman” Akira, a man known for his work on the Street Fighter franchise, particularly the creation of Chun-Li. Also like the mecha, the characters and animation for the series don’t seem to carry the best reputation, often times regarded as “okay” or “serviceable” due to the simplicity of the designs, but in my opinion the character designs are excellent.
The designs are deceptively elegant, and that “simplicity” gives me an impression similar to Yasuhiko Yoshikazu’s original designs from the first Gundam. Careful attention is paid to details such as clothing and hair without going overboard, and even the sparse shading contributes to a more refined and subdued look. Much like the mecha, the characters all stand out uniquely at a glance, with one notable (and intentional) exception in Kihel and Dianna.
If I had to describe Turn A Gundam using other anime titles, I would say it has the thematic elements of Panzer World Galient, half the grandeur of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (which keep in mind is still a vast amount), and characterization on the level of Eureka Seven. The show is amazing. It’s gripping in a way that shows Tomino at his finest, with its balance of heavy elements with a sort of lighthearted whimsy which also manages to enrich every aspect of the story, its characters, and its ideas. As I finished Turn A Gundam, I could feel it taking over my thoughts and emotions. It’s amazing, and I can’t get it out of my head.
Ever since Mobile Fighter G Gundam, various anime in the franchise have been accused of not really being Gundam, or for betraying the idea of Gundam in some capacity. Whether that’s robots powered by martial arts, a preponderance of pretty boys, or the presence of a mustache and biplanes, it’s clear that, at least to some, there is a vague idea of what Gundam shouldn’t be, but what I find interesting is that over time these prejudices seem to fade or in some cases even become something of a minority. Where once in the English-speaking fandom G Gundam was seen as a freak accident at best, nowadays you’ll find plenty of people who actually will say that G Gundam is their favorite Gundam, or even that G Gundam is the only good Gundam.
I am not here to judge anyone’s tastes or preferences, but rather I would like to wonder aloud about how and why this happens. In the case ofGundam W and G Gundam, the answer partly lies in the way they were situated in the Toonami block of the early to mid 2000s and were able to build up a fanbase as a result, but I feel like that is just one instance of a more basic process at work.
Whenever opinions form about a current or upcoming Gundam, it seems to come primarily from those most invested and devoted to Gundam. This group consistently has Gundam-ness as a priority, and so the initial discussion is shaped by that established fandom and their values. What I’m thinking is that over time, a series has a greater chance of reaching more people, and eventually they’re found by people who won’t necessarily label themselves as Gundam fans, whose value sets are different. At that point, a series may reach an audience more receptive to its ideas or less prejudiced against it (though they may carry their own prejudices different from the ones of more hardcore Gundam fans).
Essentially, what I’m wondering about is whether or not Gundam series (and perhaps other franchises like Macross) undergo a process where they first start off surrounded by their immediate fandom created by the franchise, and then break through that established core, such that the discussion about these series starts to change, that it’s not simply “a matter of time” but also a matter of reaching people who might be more receptive to it. That might not mean that a series will be loved, but that there is a greater chance of it happening.
Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.
Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.
For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.
When you look at the full title of the 1990s OVA Shishunki Bishoujo Gattai Robo Z-Mind: The Battling Days of the “Shitamachi” Virgins, which is a mouthful to say the least, you get a pretty good indication of what’s in store for the 6-episode OVA. Shishunki Bishoujo Gattai Robo” literally means “Beautiful Girls in Puberty Combining Robot,” so in other words, expect pretty teenage girls piloting a big beefy robot, that peanut butter-and-chocolate combination which is at this point something of a staple in anime. And if it isn’t clear that this OVA is targeting robot fans, then note that 1) the vast majority of the robot attacks reference other anime (“Z-Boomerang” and “Z-Tomahawk” for instance), and 2) they even managed to insert a small Reideen cameo of sorts, as shown below.
Z-Mind centers around three Japanese sisters, Ayame, Renge, and Sumire, who pilot a giant robot named Z-Mind created through collaboration between the Japanese and American militaries. Together, they fight the Orgapiens, aliens with advanced technology who all look like creepy oversized babies. As the main heroine and leader, Ayame differentiates herself from her younger sisters by having a yamato nadeshiko-esque quality to her in contrast to her sisters’ more Western looks and fashion sense, making Ayame a character somewhere in the vein of Shinguuji Sakura from Sakura Wars.
The girls all exhibit strength and courage, and are also responsible for beating back the monsters at the end of the day, but the overall flat characterization in the series means that there isn’t much to discuss about them, other than that the desire to make Ayame more of a traditional beauty than her feistier sisters may say something about the kind of face the series wanted. Ayame is pretty inoffensive in any direction, but she suffers from the same lack of depth as the anime she’s in. Even Ayame’s love interest, a mysterious man from the future in a stylish red jacket named Kouji, is just kind of there until their relationship decides to grow abruptly, so it’s hard to say how much it affects her character.
When I finished each episode of Z-Mind, I would find myself regarding it as decent, but when I asked myself if I wanted to keep watching immediately after, the answer was definitely “no.” While this may have something to do with the fact that each episode exists somewhat independent of the others, in the end there was nothing so thrilling or compelling that I had to see the girls of Z-Mind again as soon as possible.
If I were being a little harsher, I would call the series mediocre, and if I were being a little kinder, I would say that it had potential, but I think the best way to describe Z-Mind is that if it had been properly released back in the 1990s in the US, I think it would have been a big hit. It’s short, it’s pretty, and while it’s sparse on characterization and development, it has enough in those categories to spark the imaginations of fans hungry to explore a fantastic world, one which sparks their imaginations and makes them thirsty for possible areas to elaborate. In this sense, I feel it would have garnered a reputation similar to Bubblegum Crisis, though one advantage it has over Bubblegum Crisis is that it actually has a conclusion instead of ending abruptly on a self-contained episode.
For Z-Mind, the character types, art style, and and overall feel of the series all come across as very much a product of their time, and Ayame too is a naturally both a part and a result of that combination. As such, Ayame winds up being a girl full of admirable qualities, but hard to categorize as anything more than a basic outline of a strong, ideal girl. Her character, and her anime, exist as one stop along the path of female heroines in robot shows.
As the final part of the generation-themed Gundam AGE begins, I’m reminded of the “Machete Order,” a way of watching the Star Wars movies which supposedly introduces all of its elements in the best ways while cutting away some of the excess. Specifically, “excess” means “Episode 1,” as the entire adventures of a very young Anakin were deemed unnecessary and even perhaps detrimental to enjoyment. While I don’t think any of the parts of Gundam AGE are awful, it does make me wonder if it’s actually possible to watch the third and fourth Gundam AGE arcs without having watched the prior two.
While it would be sad to lose characters like Woolf and young Emily, I feel like the third part introduces you enough to the returning characters that someone who got into the show right at that point wouldn’t take long to fully grasp the story, and perhaps because the ratings were so low they actually made it with this in mind. While you don’t get to see Flit go from idealistic young boy to supportive but crotchety old man, you also get to immediately see the differences between him, pirate Asemu, and noble Kio. Obviously as someone who’s already watched the previous parts I can’t simply use my own experience to judge the effectiveness of omitting the earlier parts, at least not without much scrutiny and testing on willing subjects, but I would be interested in hearing thoughts on this matter.
I’ve been enjoying Gundam AGE quite a bit since it began airing, and I think it’s a solid show (thought not without its flaws) which successfully utilizes its main premise of a battle being fought over multiple generations. The second generation hero Asemu is a far cry from his dad Flit when they were similar ages, and through hindsight it ends up highlighting what made Flit unique in the first place. As it turns out, though, Gundam AGE isn’t doing so well in the ratings, and it apparently has failed to reach the kids demographic it was trying for in the first place. At this point, it’s pretty easy to just say that the mistake was marketing to kids, that they shouldn’t have repulsed the older fanbase through the kiddier designs and the like, and that the solution is more UC (or things similar to the Universal Century stories), but I think this would be a huge mistake.
Putting aside the fact that this is not the first time that a good Gundam series has disappointed in the ratings (see Gundam X and even the original Mobile Suit Gundam) and just assuming that nothing the show does now will turn it around, the kind of risk that Sunrise took in gearing Gundam AGE towards a younger demographic is, in my opinion, the healthiest kind of failure there is. Well, if you consider it in terms of profits lost I’m sure there would be some disagreements, but what I mean by healthy failure is that they didn’t have to do this, but saw that there is a potential market from a new generation far removed from the original 1979 anime, and made a concerted effort to appeal to it. It reminds me of Sunrise’s recent hit, Tiger & Bunny, because that show was a surprise hit to even Sunrise themselves, and I have to wonder if it encouraged them to take more risks. Obviously I don’t know if AGE was in planning before or after T&B, but there seems to be this general spirit of experimentation which I’d rather not see stifled because of this setback.
When Sunrise did research into why kids weren’t getting into AGE, they arrived at the conclusion that kids these days don’t understand or know about wars and space colonies. It seems like an odd result, but assuming that this is the problem (or perhaps more accurately that modern kids don’t care about space war by default), the thing I want to point out is that there are ways to work from this information without just abandoning it entirely. If the children of Japan today are ignorant of wars and space colonies, then perhaps one of the goals of a Gundam which targets them should be to introduce those concepts as if they were entirely new. In other words, if it’s unfamiliar, make it familiar.
Perhaps an easier solution would be to just find out what the kids like and transform the premise to fit the current trends, but I don’t think the solution has to be an all-or-nothing endeavor, even if Gundam AGE may have toed the line too much. Heck, I think looking back at the previous alternate universe of G Gundam could provide some nice possibilities, not so much because of the martial arts aspect, but the premise of having Gundams from various nations each with their own special abilities, which isn’t that far off from the cast of a collectible card game/monster battle show.
Two Gundam AGE posts in a row! Why not?
I’ve been thinking for a while now about how Gundam AGE shows that it’s an anime made with younger viewers in mind. There are the more youthful-looking characters, and the choice of colors used in the show, and the toy line which tries to diversify well beyond just “model kits,” but I realized that it also handles the younger characters in a particular manner that appeals to kids a lot more than adults.
Essentially, in the world of Gundam AGE, adult treat the opinions and ideas of children as seriously as they do the words of adults. Whenever Flit or Emily or anyone else has something to say, they’re willing to listen and not patronize them, as if the kids may know something that they don’t or may have simply forgotten in the process of becoming adults. It’s a feeling that I think most people can remember from when they were kids, that maybe the adults in our lives overlooked something that we knew to be absolutely right. Kids don’t want the adults around them telling them that they’ll “understand when they’re older” or that they need to wait a few years before they can say anything of value.
Heck, teenagers don’t want them from adults, and people in their 20s don’t want that from the people older than them either. It’s probably more relatable than I first realized.
So what’s really interesting about this, then, is the fact that Gundam AGE has that generational theme, that we’ll eventually be seeing the first arc’s children turn into adults, and then see how they handle their offspring and the new ideas they offer. I can’t say for sure, but it’s almost like the show was built for this.
Ever since the original Gundam and its relatively stark look at war, the idea of the “average soldier” has been a prominent part of the franchise. Here, the lowly soldier with a photo of his loved ones back home getting stabbed through the cockpit as he screams his girlfriend’s name is a recurring image, but in reality such figures are rarely given a spotlight. Even the “everyday grunts” that comprise the titular “08th MS Team” often seem above-average. In Gundam AGE though, two characters in particular have made “averageness” a joy to watch.
The first is Largan Drace, the man who was originally meant to pilot the Gundam, but who ends up in a regular ol’ robot when Flit takes the Gundam as his own. With actual military training but no notable reputation, Largan is pretty much “just another soldier,” but the fact that he is aware of his skill level while being both humble/confident about it actually causes him to shine through at a fair level which says “I’m a side character, but I’m also important in my own way.” He’s even the person who, upon injury, suggests Flit take the Gundam in his stead in the first place. While Largan has no special abilities to speak of, nor any exceptional talents, his behavior and integrity make him an excellent representative of the average soldier.
The second is Adams Tinel, who sits in the bridge of the Diva as Navigation Officer. Loyal to the Federation and thus torn by the fact that the Diva’s captain, Grodek Ainoa, is very much a rogue and a man willing to use almost any means to achieve his goals, Adams has shown his character in contrast to Grodek on a few occasions now. From this, we know that if given a path of light or a path of darkness, he will always choose the former, such as when he informs the Federation of the Diva’s situation in fighting the enemy despite fact that Grodek is a man wanted for treason. However, his goal in doing so is not to tattle, or to show his loyalty, but because he honestly believed that trying to get the Federation’s support was the best course of action. Adams plays by the book and does so without being a wet blanket, and in a series full of characters so fully intent on achieving their goals, his sense of restraint is notable and admirable.
A common complaint with many anime characters is that they are too average and therefore too boring. Largan and Adams show however that playing by the rules and doing okay does not disqualify a character from being interesting. Instead, they show that there is a big difference between average and bland, and when it comes to both main and side characters, the approaches taken for them are valuable lessons.
After one episode, Gundam AGE has convinced me to watch it. I don’t mean that it’s done enough that I’m willing to give it another few episodes, or even that I’m going to watch because I’m aware that Sunrise mecha series tend to take about 13 episodes for the story to “really” begin. What I am saying, rather, is that just this first episode makes me want to see the show through from beginning to end. While not perfect, in my opinion Gundam AGE has an incredibly solid first episode to the extent that even if the show turns out to be awful, I can still point to the very beginning and say, “That… was an excellent introduction.”
There are multiple reasons for why I think so highly of that first episode, but probably the biggest among them is the main character himself. As a small child, Flit is shown as having suffered a tragedy at the hands of the UE, the “Unknown Enemy.” As a 14 year old, he is clearly driven by the trauma of his past, wishing to do something to not only continue his parents’ legacy (they were Mobile Suit creators) but to never let the same thing happen again. He is motivated to act to such a degree that he creates the Gundam itself. Whereas most Gundam protagonists in the past have come across their units through a quick series of twists, Flit has been actively working towards its completion for what I can only assume has been years. He is shown to be a brilliant scientific prodigy who had to grow up a little too fast, and yet is still a kid at heart. The way he tries to convince his classmates of the impending threat of the UE shows pretty much everything about him, a mix of intelligence, dedication (possibly obsession), and the feelings and thoughts of a 14 year old boy.
Flit is a character that I can get behind. He feels like he has room to grow, and at the same time already is something of an inspirational character.
And all through this, though he has experienced tragedy, he does not feel as if he is defined as a tragic character. In fact, perhaps thanks to the show’s aesthetics, from its bright color palette to its more rounded character designs, the entire show feels fun and vibrant in a way that doesn’t negate the weight of its more serious aspects. In a way, it reminds me of the first episode of Heartcatch Precure!, which also won me over immediately. Even the shot of the space colony felt more impressive to me than it has in years;I could sense the wonder that is living in a space colony, even after being a Gundam for over a decade now. A lot happens in this first episode, both in terms of growing the story and setting up a path for Flit that feels like one he has determined for himself.
I could totally start comparing this anime to older versions of Gundam. Flit, with his seeming “paranoia” and technical skill, is like an Amuro who has discovered his motivation in life at a much younger age. Emily looks like Sayla Mass and acts like Frau Bow. The kids in Flit’s class remind me of the kids from 0080: War in the Pocket. The first activation scene takes on a significantly different meaning because of how Flit created the Gundam and so knows all of its ins and outs, and it makes me recall the scene in Char’s Counterattack where Hathaway takes about the legend of Amuro and how “he knew how to pilot it as soon as he got in.” But Gundam AGE feels so fresh and energetic that I find comparing it to other Gundam series should only be seen as a fun exercise and not as a wellspring from which to initiate constant criticism. Endlessly drawing parallels to previous iterations will only make it more difficult to see what Gundam AGE does well from the very start.
Before the series began, the promotional material stressed the generational aspect of Gundam AGE and I was actually surprised to see it hardly ever discussed among the buzz. I found it to be the most intriguing and attractive part of the concept, and while it obviously has yet to fully take effect, the generational theme has already been establishes just from this episode. The concept of the “Gundam” is passed down from Flit’s parents to himself, and I can only assume he will do the same in the future. The Gundam is spoken of in almost mythological tones, a robot from long ago that saved the world and changed everything. Seeing that scene, I could only think that, in a way, the status of the Gundam in the world of AGE mirrors the legendary status of the Gundam franchise itself. I would not be surprised if the kids watching AGE see Gundam as this piece of history that they’re told is one of the most significant pieces of anime history, but feels strangely distant, like it comes from another time. By having the Gundam take this role, Gundam AGE episode 1 really does make it seem like a Gundam for a newer generation.
Also, the robots look cool.
I recorded a podcast over at the Veef Show just this past weekend with Andrew of Collection DX fame, and it is up for your listening pleasure.
We talk about a number of topics, but it mainly focuses on things like space travel, the state of anime, and philosophizing about that most sacred of subjects, mecha anime. For reference, my Code Geass post that we mention is this one.
Apologies for the background noise on my end. If you’re curious, that’s the sound of Leidens Ontzet.
So in summary, this: